Top picks for sustainable holiday gifting

Dec. 8, 2019, 10:10 p.m. | By Vivian Li | 3 years, 6 months ago

'Tis the season to be conscious of unnecessary waste

Don't dream of a white Christmas, dream of a green one! Between 38,000 miles of ribbon, and $11 billion worth of packing material, the amount of trash produced in the U.S. increases by roughly 25 percent during the holiday season. This year, choose to give sustainably, or give the gift of sustainability to your friends and family.

Let's talk wrapping paper: skip out on king-size rolls of glossy prints and opt for a reusable option instead. Reusing newspapers, sheet music, maps and book pages gives a gift some flair, whether it be classy, vintage or worldly. Give scrap paper a second life as gift packaging by painting one side. If you're feeling creative, try drawing or stamping personalized prints on kraft paper, a 100 percent biodegradable product made from unbleached wood pulp.

What about sustainable gift packaging you can repurpose year after year? Furoshiki, the art of Japanese fabric wrapping, uses a square of fabric to wrap anything from clothes to food. In recent years, furoshiki has also emerged as a popular, sustainable way to wrap holiday gifts.

Consider the bliss of an ice cream cone or a taco. Similar to the edible waffle cone or corn tortilla that envelops a delectable filling, furoshiki serves as a two-in-one, where the packaging is as much a gift as the present inside. 

Need a gift for someone with fashion sense (or lack thereof)? The thrift store is a one-stop shop to find unique prints, whether they be on clothing racks or from the fabric section. Incorporate current seasonal fashion trends by gifting items wrapped in satin, canvas, linen, or tulle scarves and fabrics. The textile world is boundless— try upcycling a chenille sweater or Mom's old corduroy pants.

For gifts that aren't already in the shape of a sturdy prism, a tidy wrap job may prove a challenge. Thankfully, repurposed cereal boxes and other pantry cardboard boxes serve as a convenient way to package less structured items. Straw baskets and artisan craft boxes add a fancier touch, serving both an aesthetic and practical purpose. For an outdoorsy look, dress up a simple box or kraft paper package with twine, pine branches, or dried flowers.

Newspaper makes an artistic and personalized substitute for wrapping paper (courtesy of Abby Yokoyama). Photo courtesy of Abby Yokoyama.

Not only does sustainable packaging avoid one-time waste, it also gives recipients the resources to avoid future waste, perpetuating a continuous cycle that will lower current packaging waste statistics for years to come.

So, you're now fully equipped with eco-friendly gift wrapping strategies— want more? Take the next big step by handcrafting gifts and buying local, which saves both the carbon footprint of home delivery and the packaging that comes in the mail. "This year, I want to start start only giving used or sustainably made things, specifically not ordering from Amazon because the shipping is bad for the environment," junior Anna Grace O' Malley says. 

Even when receiving gifts covered in a less conscious way, aim to unwrap them carefully and salvage any materials, whether it be trimming the edges of wrapping paper used for a larger gift to wrap a new, smaller one, or saving a ribbon bow.

In addition to gifting sustainably, consider a gift that leads to a lower-waste lifestyle. Items such as bamboo toothbrushes, package-free shampoo pods, beeswax food wrap, reusable coffee cups and silicone sandwich bags reduce the need for single-use plastics. Although slightly pricier, guppy bags serve as a protective filter in the laundry machine that stops microfibers in synthetic clothing from reaching wastewater streams. For the avid holiday baker, gift silicone cupcake liners or a silicone baking mat

Finally, gift experiences rather than objects— the ultimate form of avoiding waste. Take a friend or family member out to a movie they've been dying to see, an amusement park or a pottery studio. According to O' Malley, donating to a cause that someone supports is an even better way to eliminate the carbon footprint when gift-giving. "My mom's birthday is Dec. 30, so we usually have two different gift-giving occasions for her," O' Malley says. "However, she doesn't want any gifts this year, and wants instead for us to donate to a climate justice non-profit."

At the end of the day, gifting is meant for showing appreciation for loved ones, and it can come in various shapes and forms. Whether you're gifting a handmade present, reusing old packaging, investing in reusable materials or avoiding a tangible gift altogether, stay on the look out for creative ways to gift green. Happy holiday gifting!

Last updated: Dec. 8, 2019, 10:11 p.m.

Tags: holidays presents gifts

Vivian Li. Hi! I love all things journalism, art, and the environment. When I'm not working on an article, I enjoy browsing fashion, baking, running, and reading. I'm a huge health nut and I love researching new recipes. At Blair, I'm on the debate and DECA team … More »

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